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FBI warns of hackers spying inside homes through smart TVs

Posted: 6:35 PM, Dec 02, 2019
Updated: 2019-12-02 21:52:28-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The FBI is warning the public to be aware of the risks that come with buying a smart TV, which is a television that can connect to the internet.

According to the FBI, hackers can break into your television and do anything from steal information to watch and listen to you.

The agency says there are tricks to keep in mind to prevent this from happening.

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These are the tips from the FBI:

  • Know exactly what features your TV has and how to control those features. Do a basic Internet search with your model number and the words “microphone,” “camera,” and “privacy.”
  • Don’t depend on the default security settings. Change passwords if you can – and know how to turn off the microphones, cameras, and collection of personal information if possible. If you can’t turn them off, consider whether you are willing to take the risk of buying that model or using that service.
  • If you can’t turn off a camera but want to, a simple piece of black tape over the camera eye is a back-to-basics option.
  • Check the manufacturer’s ability to update your device with security patches. Can they do this? Have they done it in the past?
  • Check the privacy policy for the TV manufacturer and the streaming services you use. Confirm what data they collect, how they store that data, and what they do with it.

The FBI says on a small scale hackers can change channels, control volume or play videos. On a much larger scale they can listen and watch you without you knowing.

Technology Analyst Rob Enderle says another trick to avoid this is to use voice controlled remotes rather than televisions. The remotes only turn on when a button is pressed, while the televisions microphone can stay on unless the settings are changed.

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In addition, Enderle has more Cyber Monday tips. He says to be cautious which websites you click on, and put information into, because many can be fake.

“So they might be one letter off. You might have received something in the mail to sign up for a special deal but it’s not a legitimate website," said Enderle. "They’re just there to capture your ID and passwords."

"And some of the best ones will actually pass you through to the real site after they capture your ID and passwords,” he added.

Enderle also says to never log onto public WiFi networks. Hackers will make fake networks that can steal your information, so he suggests to always stay on 4G in public and only use at-home WiFi.